“You Should Make Me Participate”

One of the many things that amazes and confounds me is the statement “You should make me participate.” There are many variations of it depending upon the situation.  “You should make me <fill in the blank>.”

Inherent in the statement is “I’m not responsible for me, you are.”  If I’m dealing with a small child, or even a teenager, it has some context in the stage of development.  When I encounter it with entrepreneurs and in corporations, it tends to bring things to a screeching halt.

In studying change management, I learned the difference between framing things as “it could be this way” versus “it should be this way”.  It makes a significant impact when things aren’t viewed as an absolute “should” – implying the only way.  Possibilities are still open and the potential for seeing another’s point of view still exists.

A “should make me” (SMM) perspective implies that a person isn’t ready for or taking responsibility for engaging in whatever is going on.  From the SMM perspective, it is up to someone else (absolutely) whether the SMM person will

•    Contribute
•    Learn
•    Act
•    Engage
•    Support
•    Do

If you are leading or managing a SMM person (if you have more than one in your group, God Bless You!), you have a significant challenge in motivating the person, achieving results through the person, and integrating them into the organization and/or team culture.  Mix in a SMM person with a self-starter, who wants to get things done and does get things done and the dynamics are unpredictable (to say the least).  In some cases the self-starter “directs” the SMM person and both parties are happy.  In other instances, the SMM goes from “should make me” to “so make me”.

As managers or leaders how do you address the SMM challenge?  Here are some suggestions:

•    Define the role and expectations for the person CLEARLY
•    Set specific deliverable requirements with deadlines and interim reporting dates
•    Make the outcomes measurable – time and result ($’s, %, etc.)
•    Take action when a deliverable isn’t met
o    Document
o    Evaluate
o    Give feedback
o    Correct
•    Communicate expectations of teamwork and pro-active approach
•    Monitor the individual and his/her impact on the project, team, and company

It would be a logical expectation that the SMM attitude is something that a person will mature beyond.  It is more likely that the SMM person will need to be developed, coached, mentored, and monitored to obtain the behavior “appropriate” to the role.  It is also likely that as leaders and managers, we will need to hone our communication skills and learn some new approaches to dealing with these individuals.

What can you do today to get more out of a SMM employee or team member?

Situation 1:      Team member is not contributing to the project.
Response:    Get to the point, bring in the individual and communicate clearly the performance issues– what hasn’t been done, what needs to be done, and by when.  Discuss deliverables and expectations, don’t discuss personality.

Situation 2:    Team member is disrupting the project through attitude or other actions.
Response:    Document the behavior issues, bring in your human resources manager (or if you don’t have someone on staff, bring in an external advisor – before and during the meeting), and convey the specific issues and impact to the individual.  Work with the individual to establish a plan for getting performance and behavior on track, establishing specific outcomes, milestones, and deliverables.  Set specific times for periodic reviews and feedback (good and bad).  However, if an event (good or bad) happens that is significant between the scheduled reviews, bring the employee in to communicate and document what has occurred.

It is important when dealing with any relationship (subordinate or peer) that the organization follows clear processes which are fair, objective, and consistently applied.  It is important to document communication with employees and to give them an opportunity to respond and correct behavior.  Many companies (especially early stage and small businesses) do not have formal written policies on dealing with poor employee performance.  Others have policies but do not apply them consistently.  If your organization is dealing with employee performance issues, it may be a good time to sit down with your human resources team and/or external consultants to review existing policies and procedures, as well as train your managers and executives on how to deal with difficult or problem employees.

Copyright © 2004 F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.

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